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Have you ever tried to give up coffee and caffeine?
Give up coffee?
I know many people are not happy with that suggestion, and trust me, I used to be one of them!
I loved coffee.
I never drank it for the caffeine buzz. I drank it for the flavor.
I love dark, rich, and slightly bitter beverages and coffee hit all three for me.
But, after I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and adrenal problems back in mid-2012, my coffee days came to an end. It was one of the first things my Nutritional Therapist told me I needed to cut out.
It wasn't just coffee, it was ALL caffeine.
I didn't realize how much I loved coffee until I couldn't drink it anymore. Since mid-2012, I have only had coffee once … and within 30 minutes, I had a migraine.
So, yeah. Coffee and I are no longer friends, but that's OK. I have created a perfect substitute (more on that below).
The Coffee Good vs. The Coffee Bad Debate
There is a lot of debate surrounding whether coffee is good for us or not. Some experts say yes, some experts say no.
Why, simply posting this article on my Facebook page illicit a lot of response, both positive and negative.
People truly love their coffee.
If the mere thought of giving up coffee sends chills down your spine, then perhaps it's time to take a look at the role it plays in your life.
Those who are addicted to coffee (or feel like they “can't get going” without it) are often suffering from adrenal dysfunction, whether it be mild or severe.
Consuming that caffeine is only exacerbating the problem and setting them up for even worse adrenal fatigue and burnout in the future. This is discussed below.
Giving up coffee may be hard (trust me, I've been there), but your long-term health is worth it. I made the choice to let coffee go and I know it has helped immensely.
When choosing a stance on coffee, I think it comes down to two things:
- The health of the individual and
- The quality of the beans
If you are healthy, then yes, you may be able to tolerate coffee and caffeine.
BUT, if you have ANY of the health problems discussed below, you might be wise to think twice before sipping that cup of joe.
And, even if you think you're in good health, remember that almost everyone alive in the Western world today has some level of adrenal and blood sugar dysregulation issues, whether they know it or not.
Now, let's dive into the 4 very good reasons to consider giving up your cup of coffee– or at least reducing the amount you drink — regardless of your current state of health.
4 Solid Reasons to Give Up Coffee and Caffeine
Caffeine Messes Up Your Blood Sugar
The main reason that I gave up coffee initially was because it messes up your blood sugar.
This is something I learned from my Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Lydia from Divine Health, back in 2012. If you don't know how your blood sugar works, I highly suggest reading this post.
Because blood sugar regulation plays a big part in autoimmune thyroid disease (like Hashimoto's, which is what I have), managing it properly is key to healing the body.
Caffeine increases blood sugar levels and can aggravate both hypoglycemia and diabetes (or pre-diabetes).
When caffeine is combined with other sugars (many people sweeten their coffee with sugar, honey, etc.), it can be even more detrimental. Because of this, it can be a contributor to insulin resistance.
Caffeine, which is a stimulant, is often used to boost someone's energy. When stimulants are used in the body, they can aggravate existing blood sugar issues and create imbalance, even in healthy people. This is because caffeine depletes two of our most important neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine.
Quote from the Stephen Cherniske, M.S. book, “Caffeine Blues”:
Caffeine raises blood sugar levels and disrupts the blood sugar–regulating effect of insulin. In fact, high-dose caffeine administration (the equivalent of six cups of coffee) has been shown to produce transient insulin resistance that is very similar to Type II diabetes.
Hypoglycemia results when blood sugar levels fall below normal. Since blood sugar (or glucose) is the fuel that runs our muscles and brain, hypoglycemia typically produces fatigue, depression, and anxiety. There is no single cause of hypoglycemia. It is an imbalance in the complex process of energy metabolism involving the liver, pancreas and adrenal glands.
Caffeine plays a major role because it stimulates the fight-or flight stress response. As part of this response, the liver rapidly raises the blood sugar levels. This is felt as a “lift” by the person who drank the coffee (especially if the coffee contained added sugar) but the body must then deal with the metabolic emergency of hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar). This is accomplished by the pancreas, which secretes insulin, driving the blood-sugar level down.
In some individuals, however, blood sugar may decrease to levels below normal, resulting in hypoglycemia and the all-too-familiar “letdown” feeling a few hours after the coffee lift. Of course, many people simply reach for another cup of coffee, which starts the roller-coaster cycle all over again.
For further reading, may I suggest this awesome article from Divine Health on how one’s blood sugar affects adrenal health and even the entire endocrine system.
Just one of the reasons to give up coffee and caffeine!
Caffeine Dehydrates You
Caffeinated beverages are dehydrating to the body (acting as a diuretic), regardless of the form they come in (coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, etc.).
If it has caffeine, it is going to dehydrate you. Period.
Because of this, people who drink caffeinated beverages MUST drink more water than the average person in order to replace what is lost from the caffeine they consumed.
According to Lydia, “for every 8 ounce cup you will need to replenish with another 12 to 16 ounces of pure water.”
Since caffeine has diuretic effects on the body, it also causes the body to excrete potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and other minerals, as well as B vitamins (especially thiamine, B1), and vitamin C.
This loss in vital minerals and vitamins puts serious strain on the body.
Most people in today's world are in a chronic state of dehydration to begin with, so when you add caffeine consumption into the mix, you take that dehydration to a whole new level. All of this putting severe strain on the organs and systems of the body.
As a general rule, you should drink 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water per day.
If you drink caffeinated beverages, you should drink more water than that.
Another one of the reasons to give up coffee and caffeine!
Caffeine is Hard On Your Adrenals
As if the blood sugar and dehydration issues were not enough of a reason to skip that morning cup of coffee, you also have to consider the effect of caffeine on our adrenal glands.
What are the adrenal glands you ask? Simply defined:
The adrenal glands are small glands located on top of each kidney. They produce hormones that you can't live without, including sex hormones and cortisol. Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions. (source)
Almost everyone alive today has some sort of adrenal dysfunction, whether it be mild or severe.
This is due to the world we live in — we are bombarded with stress, anxiety, poor food, poor sleep, EMFs, etc. every single day.
Many people live in a fast-paced, constantly overworked world and all of this wreaks havoc on our poor adrenals.
Most people don't know that they have adrenal issues because Western medicine does not put much emphasis on the importance of adrenal health. I don't know how many doctors I have mentioned adrenal issues to in the past and they either (a) look at me like I'm from Mars, or (b) they poo-poo my comments and say that it's not really that important.
Actually, Mr. (or Mrs.) Doctor, adrenal health IS that important. But, I digress.
When it comes to coffee, Lydia says that it is those with low cortisol who seem to benefit from coffee. The emphasis here is on SEEM. They don't really benefit in the long-run.
The problem with consuming coffee with low (or high) adrenal function is that it is only exacerbating the underlying problem and setting you up for more damage to the body.
Why, you ask? Because:
Caffeine can trigger a boost in dopamine which activates the pleasure center in the brain. The same thing that cocaine, amphetamines and other psychoactive drugs do.
When your cortisol levels are already high and you add the stimulation of coffee/caffeine you are asking for trouble. Caffeine over stimulates the adrenal glands by creating a stress response in the body as we saw above in the role that caffeine plays in affecting our blood sugar. It creates an upswing in cortisol and other stress hormones. Whenever we have a rapid rise in our blood sugar, there is always a quick drop to follow. Both the high and the low can have an effect on the adrenal glands. (source)
The book Caffeine Blues has a whole chapter dedicated to how caffeine consumption can contribute to adrenal dysfunction.
If you develop adrenal problems and continue to consume caffeine, the you are asking for trouble. This can take you through all three stages of adrenal fatigue and ultimately leave you completely burnt out.
For those of you who have suffered from full adrenal burnout, you know just how difficult it can be to regain your health. It can seem downright impossible at times. It is a LONG road back to health once your adrenal glands have failed.
So, as you can see, it's a slippery slope when you start messing around with adrenal fatigue and caffeine. And it's one slope that we should really try to avoid slipping down.
If you think your adrenals are suffering, you should look into getting an ASI test (adrenal stress index) done to see what your cortisol is doing. I got one of these done back in 2012 and it was very interesting to see the results. You can order them online or through most alternative practitioners.
One of the important reasons to give up coffee and caffeine!
Caffeine is Gluten Cross-Reactive
For those of us suffering from autoimmune diseases, gluten is the first thing that must go. Not to mention all of the other health conditions that have links to gluten intolerance and leaky gut.
When you are dealing with chronic illness, getting rid of gluten alone is often not enough to make a complete improvement. There are many foods that are cross-reactive with gluten and coffee just happens to be one of them.
If you are not certain whether you need to avoid gluten-associated cross-reactive foods, you can get a gluten sensitivity test from Cyrex Labs that will tell you what you need to avoid. This test can be pretty pricey, so it may just be easier to avoid the cross-reactive foods if you are working on healing your body.
Here is a basic list of the foods to avoid (source):
For more detailed reading about why coffee drinking may not be such a great idea, especially for those with chronic illness, The Paleo Mom has an excellent article here.
If you are ready to wean off of caffeine completely, then Lydia has a great article on how to do that and keep your withdrawal symptoms to a minimum. Read her “How to Wean Off Caffeine” post here.
Yet another reason to give up coffee and caffeine!
Still Not Convinced?
Yeah, giving up coffee is hard. I know when I broach the subject with many people, it's met with quite a bit of hostility (you should have seen some of the negative comments / emails I've received!).
That's because we're all addicted and when we rely on a substance like that, it can be virtually impossible to think about giving it up.
But don't take my word for it. I'm not the only wellness educator out there who is talking about how coffee and caffeine may not be the wisest food for many people.
Dr. Sarah Ballentyne, aka. The Paleo Mom, has spoken about coffee a number of times on her Paleo View podcast.
Specifically the Science with Sarah section at minute 38:14
What Should You Do?
Like all things health related, we are ALL different. What affects one person negatively may not another person.
When it comes to adrenal and blood sugar health though, I think it's wise to really look at how something like caffeine is affecting you. These are two areas of our body that we don't want to take for granted.
The info I discuss in this article has helped me immensely and I wanted to share it with my readers. If this post can help just one person feel a little better, then I have done my job!
But, What Am I Going to Drink?
Trust me. I know just how hard it is to give up coffee. I don't miss the caffeine, I miss the flavor.
Once I gave up coffee, I realized I needed a replacement for it, but plain old herbal tea was just not cutting it for me.
When I had to give up coffee, I searched for a replacement.
While there are some coffee substitutes on the market, I never really liked any of them. They were not as rich in flavor as I'd like. Also, most of them are made from grains, and even the “gluten-free” ones can still contain trace amounts of gluten. My doctor advised me to steer clear of ALL of them to avoid any chance of gluten contamination.
As with all creations, my coffee blends were born out of a necessity.
The necessity for me to have something that tasted like coffee and gave me that comfort that a good cup of joe always did.
That is why I set out to create a blend that suited my own tastes and needs — rich, dark, flavorful, and grain-free. After I had created them, I started sharing the blends with friends and family and knew that I had hit on something when I started getting refill requests from everyone.
When I started making these herbal coffees for myself years ago, the last thing on my mind was selling them! It was not until a few years after I created these recipes that my family and friends encouraged me to set up my own online shop.
These blends were insanely popular, but in August 2015, I decided to close down shop due to FDA requirements and my long-term vision for my business. You can read that full story here.
Thankfully, I came up with a creative work around and I now offer a comprehensive herbal coffee substitute guide that is complete with:
- Detailed information on why coffee and caffeine may be bad for your health, especially if you are dealing with chronic health issues like thyroid problems and adrenal fatigue.
- Tips and tricks for blending the perfect herbal coffees at home.
- Information on sourcing clean, nourishing ingredients.
- My proprietary formulas for the Clean Living and super popular Happy Liver blends, as well as the formulas for THREE more blends that were in development at the time we stopped selling the coffees.
- Delicious recipes so you can enjoy that coffee shop experience from the comfort of your own home.
- And much more!